In products, price rise could occur (Demand-pull

In economics, the price rise is known as inflation. Inflation is known
to occur when there is a sustained increase in the price of the goods available
in the market (Öner, 2017). And inflation is measured annually. In other words,
with every unit of a currency – say Ringgit – the goods that we could purchase decrease.
The rise in food prices could be a result of various factors. First, increase
in the cost of production (Cost-pull Inflation), probably because all the
agricultural production system is dependent on oil and the rise in the oil prices results in the rise of food prices (Hall and Lieberman, 2010).  Second, with the increase in demand of food
products, price rise could occur (Demand-pull Inflation), probably as a result of production shortage or unequal
distribution of food products (Hall and Lieberman, 2010). Whatever are the
reason for the food shortage and price rise, the repercussions are not

However, the price rise is only an inconvenience to the
people in the developed world, while in the developing or the under-developed
countries rises in food prices could lead
to chaos and conflict (Brown, 2009).  

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Relationship between food and social

I believe that there is a
strong relationship between social discontent and food shortages. Social
discontent means not being satisfied with the current state of affairs and
highlighting the same in the form of peaceful protests or even violent civil
unrest. This is because food is a basic
human need. It is the responsibility of the government to provide for its citizen’s basic food supplies at an affordable
cost based on their living standards. Food is essential for human survival and
the lack of food can make a man do anything. As the Canadian economist, Jeff Rubin puts it, “Nothing sends a
person into the street quite like an empty stomach” (Rubin, 2012, p. 73). If we
look at the history, it was hunger that served as a catalyst in many of the
revolutions. Two examples come to my mind: the French revolution and the Arab
Spring. During the course of the French revolution, one of the most significant
events was the women’s march to the palace of Versailles, in which the women
from the market of Paris marched to the palace as a sign of protest against the
high food prices and the scarcity of bread. Similarly, 2010 was a rough year
for the global food system as the wildfires in Russia burned away 25 percent of
the harvest prompting Kremlin to stop
international exports while the whole of North
Africa was dependent on it (Frazer and Rimas, 2011). Hunger along with other
problems served as a catalyst again in the revolution which eventually threw
the region into chaos (Fraser and Rimas,
2011; Rubin, 2012).


We are living in an era
where is there is food shortage within a region’s
population with many people going hungry yet there are others who still
enjoy adequate access to food (Messer and DeRose, 1998). With misguided
economic development policies in developing countries, and the international
market, which results in a pattern of hunger and chaos from selective
marketing, and from non-market political policies of food extraction or
assistance (Messer, 2009). This coupled with rising inflation, we have millions
of people who cannot afford to feed themselves. They lack access to adequate
food, which may exist in the marketplace, and this frustration can lead to
desperation and violence (Messer and DeRose, 1998; Messer, 2009).

I have, in this essay,
taken examples from a few examples to highlight this phenomenon.


It is quite peculiar that
India is in the list of countries in which there is social discontent among its
people because of food. The reason I believe it to be peculiar is that India, within two decades, was able to become an export economy from an import economy
thanks to the green revolution in India which significantly increased the yield
per acre. After becoming self-sufficient, it became a major exporter of food
grains in the early 21st century. When the global food prices hit an
all-time high in 2008, the Indian
government decided to generate revenue from the exports which were more
lucrative than sales in the domestic market (Chand, 2010). And we see that the
global exports of domestic produce increased
from 6.2% during 2003-04 to 2005-06 to more than 10% during 2006-07 to 2008-09
(Chand, 2010). This caused even the domestic prices to rise, despite India
being self-sufficient during the economic
crises of 2008. A large portion of the countries population belonging to the
middle-income group was not in a position
to raise its expenditure on food to neutralize the effect of food inflation in
the country. This caused unrest and discontent among the people.     

Just before the economic
crises hit the world in 2008, riots took place in the region of Bengal in 2007
because of unequal distribution of food grains (Majumdar, 2007). In India,
there is a public distribution system known as ration shops, which distributes
food grains and other essentials to the public at prices fixed by the
government, intended for the poorest sections of the society. However, the
officials in-charge for the distribution of food supplies saw the skyrocketing global food prices and sold the
public food supplies in private market for higher gains. A report by the
supreme court of India highlighted that 34.9% of rice and 86.6% of wheat meant
for the distribution at the ration shops was sold in the private market by the
officials (Sethi, 2007). 

In the case of India, the
civil unrest was a result of not the production but rather the distribution
policy of food grains.   


 Venezuela was once the richest country in
Latin America, and it has the largest known oil reserve in the world. Its
democratic government was once praised worldwide. But today Venezuela’s
democratic institutions and economy are in shambles. The country has the
highest inflation rate in the world, with over 700 percent, making food and
medicines inaccessible to most Venezuelans. Over the last four years, its GDP
has fallen by over 35 percent which is a sharper drop than the one seen during the great depression in the US (Martin,
2017). These conditions have sparked protests and riots against the president
Nicholas Maduro, and it is easy to see why. 

The food prices in the
country have skyrocketed because of the hyperinflation causing people not only
to riot but also to scavenge for food in the streets. The monthly minimum wage in
May 2017 was at 200,000 bolivars while the price of the basic groceries has
been at five times the monthly minimum wages i.e. 1 million bolivars
(Benzaquen, 2017).  These conditions have
forced the people onto the streets. The crime rate has gone up, increased
malnutrition, poverty, diseases and mortality rate. Since the protest,
according to one estimate, 90 people have died, and 3600 people have been
arrested by the government (Benzaquen, 2017).

Venezuela depended
heavily on oil exports and imported all its food supplies. But when the oil
prices plummeted in 2014, the government decided to stop the imports and pay
off their debts. And a series of other ill-fated policy decisions which only
benefited the cronies of Nicholas Maduro, resulted in food becoming scarce in the once rich country (Benzaquen,

African continent and the Middle East

The case of many of the
countries in the African continent and the middle eastern countries that are
torn apart by war is quite different from that of India or Venezuela. In these countries, food insecurity is caused by a
series of draughts coupled with armed conflict within these countries, and the fall
of the macroeconomic structures. A report on the global food crises was
published by Food Security Information Network (FSIN) in collaboration with the
European Union (EU), World Food Programme (WFP), and Food and Agricultural
Organization (FAO) of the UN for the countries to act upon in their
humanitarian and resilience response in March 2017.  The report identifies four countries in
particular that are at risk of famine, who need immediate international
assistance. These four countries are Yemen, North Nigeria, South Sudan and
Somalia which each have 17 million, 10.9 million, 4.9 million, and 2.9 million
people respectively that are on the brink of starvation and death (FSIN, 2017). 


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